Spielwarenmesse: How drones are changing the demands in model construction

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Pilot fliegt Drohne im Sonnenuntergang
  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

How drones are changing the demands in model construction

from Ulrich Texter

Drones are fascinating flying objects. The number of areas in which they can be used is growing every year – be it in business, science, agriculture or logistics. And with their pin sharp photos and videos, they are also a hit among model aircraft flyers. But are they still just toys or do they require a pilot licence? Jamara owner Manuel Natterer is convinced even the new drone regulations will allow for fun, and that model aircraft have a future.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Natterer, many moons ago, the “Schwäbische Zeitung” newspaper wrote that “Jamara sells fun”; then came the helicopter, multicopter and drone boom which brought you fun. Looking at the current market, that fun now has to be contained, does it not? Europe’s largest association for model aircraft flyers, in any case, has said that there are constant safety hazards associated with drone pilots.

Manuel Natterer: The quote “Jamara sells fun” applies just as much today as it did in the past. The new regulations have indeed resulted in certain safety hazards; but on the other hand, they also create clear, transparent rules of conduct for handling model aircraft. Rules have been in effect for a long time, it’s just that they were highly opaque and unknown to most people.

The flyer issued by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) provides a good overview of the “drone regulation”. We also have all kinds of safety-related features, such as Easy Fly Back, a compass function and Altitude mode, which help pilots handle the drones safely, and allow the main focus to still be on fun and enjoyment.

In 2015, a drone crashed just behind a skier. A Lufthansa Airbus almost collided with a drone. And in early 2017, a drone hit a car on a motorway in Bavaria. Was it not time to introduce drone-flying licences for drones weighing 2 kg and over?

M.N.: Flying objects of this size must be controlled, and should definitely not be flown in areas posing risks to other people. The reactions to those sorts of incidents were thus completely justified. The licence for models weighing 2 kg and over helps pilots use the model aircraft correctly. And correct handling in turn protects innocent bystanders.

FPV flights and selfie drones are all the rage right now. What will be “the next big thing” at a technical level? Fuel cells? Is there scope for further miniaturisation?

M.N.: Fuel-cell technology has not taken off in cars, and I don’t believe it will do so in aviation either. Miniaturisation will of course remain relevant, particularly in private use, as a result of the amendment and the weight limits it has introduced. Autonomous flying will also increasingly come into focus, though a distinction must be made here between fun factors and industrially viable functions.

The SESAR, an alliance of six air-traffic-control organisations, published the “Europe needs to prepare for drone market” study at the end of 2016. Over the next few years across Europe, the number of drones controlled by private individuals is set to reach around 7 million, and the number of commercial drones is set to reach 400,000. Do you share this view of big business in the sky?

M.N.: The number of flying objects in the sky certainly won’t be getting less. This volume will see the technology become cheaper, resulting in more customers. As such, there will be more and more products catering to smaller budgets. Miniaturisation, however, will also see an increasing number of model aircraft capable of being flown indoors. Most of these small models will, in turn, no longer be suitable for outdoor use. I thus believe only a part of the estimated 7 million drones will end up actually flying in the sky.

Jamara has been diversifying its product range for a good decade and a half, moving away from being purely a scale-modelling provider for hobbyists, and towards becoming a full supplier which also sells RCs for kids and classic toys. Conversely, specialty scale-modelling retailers are also increasingly focusing on toys. Is the competition really that fierce or are more and more hobby flyers migrating to the Internet?

M.N.: My father, who founded JAMARA e.K., realised decades ago that even the scale-modelling industry would be affected by the changing times. He noticed that ambitious model-builders had less and less time to spend on elaborate, intricate work, and that newcomers didn’t invest time properly. In other words, time was the problem. Models thus have to be built quickly, and be accessible to everyone based on the “plug and play” philosophy. This gave rise to the motto of “Flying for everyone”, making scale modelling more available to everyone, and therefore revolutionising it.

Even though the scale-modelling industry is currently a little stagnant – most likely due to a lack of time at the model-builders’ end -, we continue to offer a basic range for ambitious scale modellers. There are of course also consumers who shop directly online, especially in China, due to the lower prices. But low prices often mean non-compliant products (i.e. products do not adhere to legal requirements).

When Jamara started out in the 1970s, its motto was “Flying for everyone”. What’s its promise today?

M.N.: While product developments have seen our motto adapt to the products and our philosophy, it hasn’t changed completely. The motto “Just play” builds on our basic idea of “Flying for everyone”, and represents the idea of “simply playing and having fun”.

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Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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